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Gurwit v. Kannatzer

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff bought land from seller. Seller told Plaintiff the land included a 17-acre tract of land. However, Plaintiff later realized the 17-acre tract of land, on record and based on tax history, belonged to his neighbor, Defendant. Nevertheless, Plaintiff posted no trespass or hunting signs on the tract of land, and made renovations on the land. Subsequently, Plaintiff began to pay taxes on the land. Plaintiff brought suit to quiet title to the land by adverse possession. The trial court held for Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Pursuant to Missouri law, a person, who possesses a property in a hostile, open and notorious, exclusive, and actual manner for a continuous period of ten years, may obtain title to the property by possession.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff, the Gurwits, purchased the land from seller in 1963. The seller told Plaintiff that the land included a 17-acre tract of land, and Plaintiff believed seller’s representation. Nonetheless, in 1983, Plaintiff became aware that their neighbors, Defendant, actually had record title to the 17-acre tract of land, which is also included in Defendant’s tax bill. During 1963 to 1983, Plaintiff posted “no hunting” and “no trespass” signs on the 17-acre tract of land. Also, Plaintiff would enter the tract to enter the rest of the property, cut down trees and bushes, cut firewood, and allowed Plaintiff’s friends to enter the land to cut firewood themselves with the Defendant’s apparent approval. Also, the Defendant made Plaintiff aware when people were trespassing on the tract. After 1983, the Plaintiff’s began to pay the taxes on the tract of land. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant’s to obtain title to the tract. Defendant brought a counterclaim seeking to obtain title in the tract for themselves. The trial court held Plaintiff obtained title by adverse possession. Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether pursuant to Missouri law, a person, who possesses a property in a hostile, open and notorious, exclusive, and actual manner for a continuous period of ten years, may obtain title to the property by adverse possession. 

    Held.

    Yes, pursuant to Missouri law, a person, who possesses a property in a hostile, open and notorious, exclusive, and actual manner for a continuous period of ten years, may obtain title to the property by adverse possession.

    Discussion.

    Pursuant to Missouri law, a person, who possesses a property in a hostile, open and notorious, exclusive, and actual manner for a continuous period of ten years, may obtain title to the property by possession. Here, the Plaintiff satisfied the hostility requirement when Plaintiff displayed the intent to posses the property, as he placed no trespass or hunting signs on the tract of land. Further, Plaintiff actually possessed the property when Plaintiff used it by cutting firewood and making renovations on the land. Also, Plaintiff’s possession was open and notoriously and exclusively because the public passing by, such as Defendant, could see Plaintiff was the only person making use of the land as an owner. Lastly, Plaintiff possessed the land continuously for the requisite period of time. Although Plaintiff was not physically present on the land everyday for ten years, continuous possession does not require continuous occupancy and use. Therefore, the trial court properly found that the Plaintiff adversely possessed the land.


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